It seems impossible that we once traveled those hundreds — nay, thousands — of miles just to get a nod and a handshake. All those air miles and hotels and bars, that enormous carbon footprint, just to sell a few pots and reinforce our status as homo economicus. Now, from the comfort of our own offices, all we need do is click a button or two and we GoToMeeting.
But we might gather from some of our submissions this week that this is not an entirely happy development. Some of us miss the travel and (especially) the expense account. More than that, something of the personal has been lost.
with unfelt trust — an electronic handshake seals the deal [David Dayson]
But there is no doubting that there are some perquisites to be had with our modern approach:
occasional interjection invisible to others so gaming on iPad [Lbnorris]
even if it still contains its share of banalities:
conference call — salutations it is not raining here also [David Dayson]
Still, that electronic distance is not always such a bad thing:
face to face not as nice as his voice [Marion Clarke]
My three top selections this week all have to do with our relationship with the new travel. Its relative distance and anonymity can spark an unexpected freedom, as in my third choice:
Skype hype — we discover our hidden TV personalities [David Dayson]
This willingness to expose ourselves to strangers in a way that we are most reluctant to do with our friends and family is one of the most interesting phenomena of the internet age, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be carried forth in our business dealings as well. The poet neatly observes and encapsulates our weakness for self-indulgence here, where “the stage” magnifies everything, and we take full advantage.
My second prize may seem as much paradigm as poem:
breaking up — the conference stalls sadly pixelated [David Dayson]
We know this is likely only a temporary situation, but there is yet something disheartening and at the same time seemingly inevitable about it. Such an event supplies a visual analog (and we are such visual creatures) for the fraught aspect of human communications, and this analog may be the very best thing that computers do for us. Technically, it is useful to the poet to hold the pixelation until the third line. This makes us curious about how the first two lines work together — how are we to read, especially, that first line (which phrasing is often used for personal relationship); and in what way does such a personal matter intersect with a “conference”? The visual cue clarifies.
This is a neat means of suggesting one of our many ways of relating to machines, but it is what we attempt to secret, from machines as well as humans, that take my top prize this week:
a deal seems done but the camera missed — an off screen shrug [David Dayson]
Not even the ubiquitous internet captures everything, and it is here that the personal element in business dealings is most vividly exploited. That shrug would never have been overlooked in person, of course, but would it even have been made? Is this relationship heading for doom? The poem is ambiguous, and opens a host of questions about the nature of impersonal interaction, which seems the quintessence of this week’s issue. It’s possible the poet didn’t intend to imply all this — and possible he did — but the words, in any event, allow us to muse on what it is we have gained and lost in our “real time” connections across the room and around the world.
Even though this is my top selection, this doesn’t mean I don’t think it could be better. For instance, I don’t really like the punctuation here. The em-dash seems to break the poem just as it was gaining momentum. Perhaps it would be put to better use after the first line, thus:
a deal seems done — but the camera misses the off-screen shrug
And in such short poems as haiku, small details such as the selection of an article or the placement of punctuation can matter greatly. This poem carries the day with its openness to possibility, but it’s possible even for the best work, occasionally, to be brought to a point with a little extra attention.
intently listening to a conference call — dolphin or whale? — Ernesto P. Santiago * unmuted — wife’s tirade halts the meeting — Enrique Garrovillo * conference call outside the window birds on a wire — Rachel Sutcliffe * at the end of the conference call fireflies — Roberta Beary * the conference call if they could see me now — Michael Henry Lee * boss on vacation! waiting for the conference call the team agog — Marta Chocilowska * convenient asset In the conference call . . . good ears — Katherine Stella * full moon the whole time conference call — Wilfredo Bongcaron * conference call — the scent of coffee comes in-between us — Ana Drobot * round robin . . . everyone speaks together — Paul Millar * roll call the one time I heard input from everyone — Pat Davis * I speak in delegation My body language Betrays my thoughts Parlo in delega Il linguaggio del corpo tradisce i pensieri — Angela Giordano * conference call a heated discussion on climate change — Eufemia Griffo * I sleep through the teleseminar — on Sleep Disorders — Angelee Deodhar * conference call my suggestions already thirty seconds old — Andy McLellan * conference call my daughter draws a gasp her naked bum — Celestine Nudanu * bad connection with the suppliers — the crinkle of a Ruffles bag — Michael H. Lester * one person sizzles during the conference call haiku society officers — Carmen Sterba * too many bosses around the oval table — no decision yet — S. Radhamani * conference call in no uncertain terms the dog’s input — Madhuri Pillai * “is the biggest ego on here?” — Debbie Feller * muffled laughter . . . the heavy breathing of the boss’s Labrador — Samantha Sirimanne Hyde * already tomorrow i hear myself saying yes — Kerstin Park * conference call to clear some problems I file my nails — Peggy Bilbro * distant crows the static of another conference call — Gail Oare * singing in the wires an earworm takes over her conference call — Marietta McGregor * conference call on the screen the big boss with a big fly on his nose — Eleonore Nickolay * three hour t-con shared objectives soaked in sweat — Mark Gilbert * autumn leaves how easily skype lets go — Jennifer Hambrick * phone conference standing out from the crowd a sexy voice — Olivier Schopfer * head office downgrading our job descriptions . . . conference call — Martha Magenta * stealing attention from my fidget spinner conference call — Angelo Ancheta * end of concall i review my body language skills — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi * conference call — the cat claims my sun patch — Arvinder Kaur * the conference call — I have no need to check my look teleconferenza — non ho bisogno di controllare il mio aspetto — Lucia Cardillo * Nixing the conference call for once in my life an eclipse — Stephan Massi * videoconference — colleagues on other continents in similar suits — Tomislav Maretic * riding . . . my colleague’s voice surprises me uphill — Elisa Allo * pinching myself to stay awake, overseas conference call — Karen Harvey * can you hear me now? the boss’s secretary patches him in — Erin Castaldi * early morning not many survive the call unscathed — Mike Gallagher * just there to take notes no one really needs to know fly on the wall — Trilla Pando * conference call interrupted by the sounds of a barking dog — Cezar Ciobika * staff retreat — winding down with group gossip — Adjei Agyei-Baah *
Next Week’s Theme: After Failure
Send your poem using “workplace haiku” as the subject by Sunday midnight to our Contact Form. Good luck!
From October 2014 through April 2016 Haiku Foundation president Jim Kacian offered a column on haiku for the London Financial Times centered on the theme of work. Each week we share these columns with the haiku community at large, along with an invitation to join in the fun. Submit a poem by Sunday midnight on the theme of the week, from the classical Japanese tradition, or contemporary practice, or perhaps one of your own, which you might even write for the occasion. The best of these will be appended to the column. First published 22 September 2015.